One of the struggles of working from home—something many more of us are doing for the first time—is a constant pressure to be present. Your Slack dings, and you feel a nagging sense of guilt if you can’t contribute an answer or participate in a discussion. Conversely, it’s easy to get annoyed when people aren’t being responsive with you.
Even though it’s easy to slack off when working from home (pun unintended), I find that it’s just as easy to keep working, and working, and working, and forget to take any moments for yourself.
This isn’t a problem in a normal office setting. You’d walk out to get lunch, take a lap around the building while waiting for your coffee to cool, or wander over to talk to your favourite colleague about new Animal Crossing strategies or turnip prices. You aren’t chained to your desk eight hours a day, nor should anyone get mad if you act like a regular, social human being every now and then.
But digitally? You still need to shoot the shit with your teammates, because they’re normal people, too—possibly even your friends.
Use Slack to schedule small breaks for everyone
If your workplace uses Slack, and assuming your manager is a reasonable and fun person, I recommend setting up a bot that reminds everyone to take a quick water-cooler break at regular intervals. Whether this is once an hour (yes!) or a few times a day (still fine!), getting your team to put down their not-critical work and engage in some delightful social banter, even if it goes longer than the “allowed” break time, can do wonders for everyone’s morale. To put it in early-2019 terms, this kind of practice sparks joy.
There are a few ways to accomplish this. The quick and easy way is to type something like /remind [channel] to take a break every [day] at [time], and just repeat that for all the different day/time combinations you want. It takes a little time to set this all up, but you only have to do it once. It might be easier to integrate a third-party tool like Schedule by Zapier into Slack, assuming you have the permissions to do so, which could make this scheduling nonsense even easier.
You can integrate a link to one of your company’s public video call rooms into your post—something I strongly suggest you consider, too, because a text-based “hangout” isn’t really much of one. A number of these services, like Zoom, also integrate directly into Slack, so you can summon a quick video-meeting room once you see that reminder by typing something like /zoom into the channel. And if everyone is crunching and really can’t take 10 minutes to socialize, just don’t type the command that sets up a meeting room. It’s as easy as that.
Will this cure your ever-present anxiety over quarantines and your new work-from-home universe? Probably not. But it does make your artificial life feel a bit more like it used to be, which is all most of us really want.